Canada’s oldest, continuously operating RCMP detachment on Friday officially opened its new $2.5-million home.
A 90-minute ceremony involving federal, provincial and local officials marked the latest chapter in the story of the Fort Macleod detachment.
“This place represents something that is truly part of us,” RCMP Deputy Commissioner and K Division commanding officer Dale McGowan said. “Under the banner of the North West Mounted Police, we arrived here in 1874 to bring law and order to a new frontier. It was the beginning for us as a regiment, a force, and as a protector and a symbol of justice in a very new country.”
“It was also the birthplace of a new and very different policing approach that would come to serve this country very well for years to come.”
Replacing the detachment on Sixth Avenue and 21st Street, the new 6,368 sq. ft. building features up-to-date equipment.
The detachment has four holding cells equipped with video surveillance cameras and office space for seven RCMP members, two support staff and Ranchland Victim Services Unit.
“We have come a long way in terms of those early beginnings,” McGowan said. “In moving and adapting to our ever-changing needs from calvary tents to permanent forts with sod-roofed buildings, and now to stand-alone detachment buildings like this one.”
McGowan said well-designed and equipped buildings such as the one in Fort Macleod are essential as the RCMP deals with modern criminals.
“This new frontier presents significant challenges to us in the law enforcement community not only here in Fort Macleod but throughout Alberta, across Canada and beyond,” McGowan said. “It is paramount we keep pace and remain effective and successful in combatting crime.”
RCMP Inspector Joe McGeough was master of ceremonies and reflected on the arrival of the North West Mounted Police in 1874 after an arduous journey to establish law, order and good government
“These were the glory days of the North West Mounted Police, the Royal North West Mounted Police and the RCMP,” McGeough said. “It all started here in Fort Macleod.”
The ceremony got under way with the arrival of 40 RCMP members marching along Eighth Avenue to the new detachment, accompanied by mounted riders and members of other police forces.
Federal Minister of State, Finance, Macleod MP Ted Menzies, carried out the ceremonial inspection of the troops.
Piikani Nation elder Maurice Little Wolf offered a Blackfoot blessing.
Hayley Grier-Stewart of the 2309 Fort Macleod Army Cadets, whose great great grandfather David Johnson Grier was part of that first troop of North West Mounted Police who arrived here in 1874, presented a framed eagle feather to detachment commander Sgt. Brent Hawker.
“I present to you with reverence to the remarkable legacy of my ancestors the Blackfoot people and on behalf of all youth this eagle feather as a gift to honour extreme bravery, accomplishment of significant goals and a milestone of a police force that is known the world over,” Grier-Stewart said. “Let the offering of this eagle feather be considered the ultimate symbol of respect and appreciation for your service and protection to society.
Fort Macleod Mayor Shawn Patience reflected on how his community and the Mounted Police are forever linked.
“We share our history, we share our beginnings,” Patience said.
Piikani Nation Chief Gayle Strikes With A Gun spoke of the important bond forged between the Blackfoot people and the Mounted Police.
“This relationship which began with our ancestors over 120 years ago is ongoing and evident today,” Strikes With A Gun said. “We will continue to work together to find a common ground, where our young people will want to be a part of the family that makes up the RCMP.”
Alberta Solicitor General Jonathan Denis spoke of the important role the Mounted Police have played in keeping communities safe, and how the force has become a symbol of Canada.
“Growing up, my grandfather always said to me there’s two things that are most Canadian — the RCMP and snow in March,” Denis said, drawing laughter from the crowd who gathered in spite of a morning snowfall. “Today we have both.”
Denis spoke of the importance the RCMP play in Alberta in fighting crime and keeping people safe.
“But they’re also role models and leaders in the community, and a vital part of this makes Fort Macleod and Alberta such a great and safe place to work, visit and raise a family.”
Menzies, who brought greetings on behalf of federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, agreed.
“The RCMP has become a vital national institution,” Menzies said. “Fort Macleod is recognized around the world as a symbol of who we are as Canadians and what we value: peace, honesty integrity and compassion.”
Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony and flag-raising, Rebecca Runions and Cody Hagen sang O Canada and later, God Save the Queen.
Christ Church Anglican minister, Rev. Pilar Gateman, led the closing prayer.
“Fort Macleod is the site of our first home in Alberta,” McGowan said. “The detachment building in Fort Macleod, in one form or another, has always served as a strong symbol of our presence here. It is more than just bricks and mortar, but rather a symbol of the importance we all place in having safer homes and safe communities.”